The man who accused the Reverend V. Gene Robinson of inappropriately touching him during an Episcopal church meeting never meant for the allegation to be made public, a family friend and church official said Tuesday. The allegation from David Lewis "was meant to be privately conveyed to the governing body of the Episcopal Church and was not an issue to be debated by the secular press," Lou Midura said in a news conference outside Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester, Vt. The allegation was made in an E-mail Sunday to the bishop of Vermont. It was made public in Minneapolis on Monday as delegates to the Episcopal Church's General Convention met to vote on whether Robinson should be confirmed as the next bishop of New Hampshire. The voting was delayed.
Robinson, who is openly gay, drew intense opposition from conservatives, who said they would consider breaking away from the church if he was confirmed. Midura is senior warden at the Zion Episcopal Church, where he said Lewis and his family have been parishioners for 12 years. His wife is administrator of the church, which has about 400 members. "I know him to be a man of strong faith, integrity, thoughtfulness, and intelligence," Midura said of Lewis. "I know him to be a devoted member of this parish and the community at large. He is active in the ministries of Zion as a lay eucharistic minister, chalice bearer, teacher, and occasional member of the choir."
Lewis declined to speak with reporters Monday night as he arrived to give a lecture. No one answered the door at his home Tuesday. Lewis's E-mail said that Robinson "put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation" at a church event a couple of years ago. Lewis said a heterosexual womanizer would not be elevated to bishop and that a homosexual who makes inappropriate advances should not be either. A second allegation, revealed at the convention and apparently unrelated to the first, was that the Web site of a gay youth outreach group that Robinson helped found years ago includes Internet links to "hard-core pornography." Spokesmen for the group said Robinson has not been involved with it since about 1998.